Today, October 14, Weaver Press is launching a book called, The Color of the Skin doesn’t Matter. It tells the life of Sr Janice McLaughlin in her own words.
The title comes from the greeting of Josiah Tongogara when he welcomed her at the airport in Maputo during the Liberation War in the 1970s. Janice died earlier this year after a long struggle with a lung condition: it was the last of the many battles she embraced in her life of seventy nine years.
Born in the United States, she always wanted to come to Africa and become engaged in the process of liberation of a continent emerging from the shadow of colonialism. Her entry point was teaching journalism in Kenya and Tanzania and from there she was invited to Rhodesia. Without calculating the risks, she threw herself into the struggle and soon found herself in Chikurubi prison. Expelled from the country, she returned to live in the refugee camps in Mozambique before engaging in education programmes in the new Zimbabwe.
What leaps out from every page of her memoir is her generosity in giving herself, ‘welcome or unwelcome’ (2 Tim 4:1). In the process, she gives us a rapid run through of the history of Zimbabwe in the past fifty years. She too ‘gave her life as a ransom for many’ to quote the last words of this Sunday’s reading from Mark.
When we read or hear the lives of outstanding people, there is, I think, a tendency to compare ourselves with them. They seem so great; we seem so small. This can be a distraction. It is surely important to recognise that, mostly, we do the best we can in our circumstances. Each day we can try to improve, a bit at a time, the actual ways in which we live our lives. We may not make the headlines. We may never go to prison for our beliefs. But we can enjoy little victories each day as we struggle to live with integrity and kindness.
The letter to the Hebrews, which we also read this Sunday, has a phrase about ‘feeling our weaknesses’ and it is used in the context of Jesus himself doing just that. He felt his human limitations. These are not handicaps to be somehow ignored and denied. They are the very stuff of our life with which we are to make friends and use as our particular raw material for achieving small conquests each day. Our biggest enemy in all this is what I have recently heard called ‘pleasurable noise’, referring to the constant presence of words and sounds in our lives. These obstruct the power to reflect and can leave us no space to be in touch with our victories and defeats. So perhaps a key victory, to begin with, would be to turn down the volume!
October 17, 2021 Sunday 29B Is 53:10-11 Heb 4:14-16 Mk 10:35-45